Adnan Abu Amer
Middle east Monitor / May 13, 2021
As the Israeli aggression on Gaza continues for the third consecutive day, there is a conviction within the ranks of the occupation army that unless it strengthens its deterrence against Hamas in this round, the movement will threaten to resume attacks each time tension arises in Jerusalem. Although the army has attacked hundreds of Hamas targets in Gaza since launching rockets on the occupation territory, Hamas never raised the white flag.
While the occupation army promised long nights of intense attacks on the Gaza Strip, the Israelis woke up to an unchanged reality on the ground, as there was an escalation in the previous rounds of fighting, after Hamas intensified its attacks and the army stepped up its responses. Judging from past experiences, this strategy will not turn over the balance of power against Hamas, but instead allows it by large to contain the flames.
Hamas realised that it had an opportunity this time to lead the situation in Jerusalem and Gaza in the long term. If the Israeli deterrence is not reclaimed, the Palestinian resistance movement will not be afraid to intervene and threaten to escalate the situation on the ground whenever there is tension in Jerusalem, particularly in Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Hamas’s new discourse is distinguishingly bold and reflects sky-high self-confidence. Although no one is interested in another Operation Protective Edge, there is a clear goal that Hamas seeks, which is to incorporate a particular message into the Palestinian collective consciousness.
Even the protests in all Arab cities and towns inside Israel reflect Hamas’s new hope for a united Palestinian popular protest front in all regions. Thus, the Jerusalemites have thanked Mohammed Al-Deif and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades that stood by them, and unlike Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas never abandoned them. These are the words of Jerusalemites that tell the story of the current escalation round.
These words should greatly bother the occupation authorities when the guns stop firing, and the Israelis start assessing what happened because Hamas became involved when the political scene in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa was deserted. As such, Hamas is present in Jerusalem as the protector of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its members came from different parts of the West Bank, staying there for long days, and their cries inside the mosque were clearly heard during the last few days.
Then Al-Qassam Brigades emerged from Gaza and issued an ultimatum to Israel, in an unmistakable sign of the faction’s support for the Jerusalemites. It would not be a surprise that the brigades’ popularity would skyrocket among the population of the Holy City, knowing that it named this round the “Jerusalem Sword”, as if to say that Jerusalem and Gaza are one.
The current round of conflict has given Hamas leaders a greater sense of self-confidence, even excessively, as they sense strength in everything related to the struggle against Israel. They have become convinced that they can start or end the round when they wish. Gaza has begun issuing warnings that confirmed Hamas’s credibility and angered the Israeli army. Even though for Hamas, the message delivered to Israel by bombing Jerusalem is equally important to the Palestinians.
It is true that Hamas does not want to be involved in a new raging war, but wants to mark in the Palestinians’ collective awareness the idea of Hamas as a resistance movement, which is still ready to fight for Palestine. In the same context, there is another factor that bothers Israel – the fact that the Arabs backed these protests after we witnessed an increasing presence of the Islamic movement elements from the cities of Umm al-Fahm, Iksal and Nazareth in Al-Aqsa during the recent uprising.
Hamas launched in its current battle a war on the status quo narrative, and succeeded. Everything went according to the plan it had laid since the beginning of the events. This was based on the consideration that Jerusalem is the essence of the entire confrontation with the Zionists, while setting a goal and seeking to instil in the Palestinian consciousness the image of the movement as “the defender of Jerusalem”, the narrative for which it fights.
Hamas also sought to prove to the Palestinians that armed struggle is not just a slogan, and that it is still ready to sacrifice and pay the price, even in Gaza, which is dear to the movement’s heart. Hamas is taking into account what the Palestinians know about its rival Fatah, leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which does not consider Jerusalem as part of its agenda and maintains continued security coordination with the occupation security apparatus.
This round of clashes did not start because of Gaza, as the media recounts, but rather because of what happened in a remote place in Jerusalem. This is what Hamas wants to engrave into the Palestinian and Israeli consciousness – that there is no longer a separation between Gaza and Jerusalem.
On the ground, Hamas’s launching of rockets towards Jerusalem constitutes a new challenge for Israel, which may be left with two options, to exercise restraint or respond with disproportionate force, even though it knows exactly what awaits. Since the beginning of the month of Ramadan, Hamas has systematically built its case around Jerusalem, started firing missiles from Gaza, and continued issuing warnings through Al-Deif. However, the warning it issued to evacuate all police forces from Temple Mount and Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood was the most prominent.
Hamas attempted to stir up a storm in Jerusalem and make Israel and the region know that the Holy City is its territory and any damage caused to Jerusalem will be answered from Gaza. This means that the movement is continuing its efforts to become the sponsor of the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem, in a way that poses a real danger to Israel. If Hamas is left undeterred, it may end up accelerating its attempts to gain control of the West Bank.
Firing rockets towards Jerusalem is an accomplished achievement, which has been checked as an additional point for Hamas, as the movement will be happy to hold celebrations in Gaza. On the other hand, the Israeli army will be asked to try to hit important targets, despite the assumption that most of the movement leaders are out of sight, knowing that most Israeli security officials considered that the settlers’ march in Al-Aqsa Mosque was a recipe for explosion and provoking the Palestinians. However, the Israeli police insisted on authorising it under the direction of the political leadership, and the result did not turn out well.
The Israeli aggression on Gaza caused the suspension of the general staff manoeuvres that had just started, and this is another achievement to be attributed to Hamas. Instead of preparing for war in its northern central front against Hezbollah, the Israeli army was dragged into conflict with Gaza, despite the fact that the Palestinian scene was a secondary part of this manoeuvre. Yet, it is a good opportunity for the Zionist army to evaluate its readiness to fight on multiple fronts and for how long.
The bottom line is that the occupation army ought to examine the intelligence assessments it has issued in recent weeks, as it claimed that Hamas has been deterred and will try to escalate the situation in Jerusalem, while preserving calm in the Gaza Strip. These assessments have proven to be wrong, and may have led to Israel’s military misconduct on the ground, which needs to be revised, but at a much higher cost to restore the status quo.
Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza